Monday, May 27, 2013

Silent Messenger

OHSU Shriner Statues

Back in January, when I was up at OHSU quite a lot, I happened to notice a couple of statues in front of the Shriners Children's Hospital. Both depict a fez-wearing Shriner holding a child in one arm, and crutches in the other. Odd statues are sort of a natural topic for this humble blog, so I snapped a couple of camera phone photos. It turns out the statues are based on an iconic (to Shriners) 1970 photo titled "Editorial Without Words", and statues based on it (titled Silent Messenger) grace Shriners hospitals and facilities across the country, similar to the Ideal Scout statue located at many Boy Scout offices. Apparently no two Silent Messengers are exactly alike, though; it seems the gentleman's fez is always customized to bear the logo of a local Shrine organization. The two at OHSU are also wearing different outfits and carrying the crutches differently. As a non-Shriner, I have no idea why they have two statues or what the differences between them might symbolize, if anything. It's possible one of them was taken from their old childrens hospital at 82nd & Sandy. The OHSU website has more photos of both statues.

If this seems like something you'd want on your mantel, you're in luck, sort of. The design also comes in smaller sizes so in theory you can have one of your very own. Although apparently you have to join the Shriners (which involves first joining the Masons) and then be awarded one for distinguished meritorious service or something along those lines. Which seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to get a small statuette. But to each his own, I guess.

I realize Shriners do charitable works for kids and have jolly parade floats and so forth, but their archaic fantasy Middle Eastern theme kind of weirds me out. Charitable works or no, it would be hard for a fraternal group to get away with a comical blackface theme today, or a Fu Manchu fake-Chinese one, but spoofing the Arab world is apparently still hilarious in 2013.

I took a peek at the local branch's current newsletter, and they seem to be uniformly elderly white men (plus the women of the ladies' auxiliary, which is a whole other issue). As this is also the core demographic of Fox News and AM talk radio, I'd speculate there's a nonzero overlap of the two. I'd be genuinely curious to hear one of those guys explain how he reconciles the two things: On one hand, wanting to bomb the people of the Middle East back into the Stone Age, and on the other, wanting to dress up and pretend to be one of them. It puzzles me, and I'd honestly like to understand how they manage it.

OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues OHSU Shriner Statues

No comments :